Listening to a South Carolina morning radio show, I overheard the local disc jockey discussing the blockbuster movie, “Avatar.” (Super movie, by the way!) What had begun as an innocent dialogue about how well the film was performing at the box office transformed into one of those one-way exchanges (about an aspect of the film) that I found particularly disturbing. While most individuals may have been subconsciously unaware of the racial undertones of the on-air conversation, I had a sudden epiphany when I heard what I heard…and then I thought: “This is how racism is fueled.”
The DJ, whether intentional or not, made a dogmatic statement about some of the character names in the film. Paraphrasing, the DJ said, “Well you know what this means…” (In reference to taking the lead spot in film popularity), “People are going to be naming their kids after the Na’vi Princess ‘Neytiri’, or ‘Pandora’ (after the planet), or the flying red bird, ‘Toruk’.” Then came a brief pause with laughter, “Why can’t they just give their kids normal names, like Rick?” asked the DJ.
That’s when I had a flash of insight. It is this warped sense of mentality, whether deliberate or not, which creates an environment of intolerance. Instead of applauding the film’s uniqueness and innovation of generating such distinguishable identities, the radio announcer made a point to deem the names as “abnormal.” Abnormality translates into objectionable, which in turn converts to intolerance.
In this world, there are no “rights” or “wrongs” when it comes to the context of people; only people. It is a perspective of fear and small-mindedness to publicly announce an unabashed opinion of what is “rational” or “irrational” in his or her mind. A tree-cutter may look at a tree and say, “That tree appears old and withered.” This is his view. An artist may look at the same tree and say, “What a majestic tree.” That is his view. But here’s the difference between these perspectives and the one from the DJ: Neither the tree-cutter or the artist determined that the tree was intolerable. Instead, they made a simple remark expressing their feelings about the tree. Had the DJ said, “I don’t really like the names in the film,” that would have sufficed. Instead, he went on to differentiate the normalcy; rather, the abnormality from the “standard, wholesome, American name.” (I’m presuming, here.)
Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” MLK’s words preoccupied me this morning when I heard the radio rep speaking. What was this man thinking? Here is a public speaker, who has the ears and attention of thousands of listeners. Some listen for the music, others listen to the commentaries, some listen to the commercials…but all in all, the announcer is in an authoritative position where he has the absolute capacity to shape public opinion. He is, essentially, a media outlet. What happens when one, two, or several of these public speakers begin telling people what the appropriate mindset is; what the “norm” is and what it isn’t?
This is, in essence, one of the seeds of racism…at the least, the seed of intolerance. We cannot, as a collective people – the human race, begin filling minds with our learned definitions of “appropriate” and “inappropriate.” There are no “bad” things, people or events…nor are there “good” things, people or events by our definitions. Deepak Chopra said, “Our thinking and our behavior are always in anticipation of a response. It is therefore fear-based.” Our individual anticipation and thinking mind are ego-based. Our ego minds often control our actions, our thoughts, out deeds, our words. When we let go of the ego mind, and feed our thoughts through the spiritual self, we no longer hold onto, nor do we disseminate negligible feedback. Martin Luther King, Jr. knew this. His deeds and his words both reflected a higher consciousness and awareness as to how to effectively communicate with people. It wasn’t the right way, nor was it the wrong way…but it was a way to make a difference and for a higher purpose. That is what we were put on this earth to do. We are all interconnected to one another. No name, no race, no religion, no sex, and no special affiliation (etc.) make us better or lesser than the next individual. We are all born to simply “be”. To exist as a conscientious observant and participant in this thing we call life.
One would not cut off his arm to spite his face, but this happens each and every time a new seed of hatred or intolerance is planted. Deeds and words without love are the misgivings of humanity. What seeds have you planted…what seeds do you plan to sew? Chopra also said, “The possibility of stepping into a higher plane is quite real for everyone. It requires no force or effort or sacrifice. It involves little more than changing our ideas about what is normal.” Martin Luther King, Jr. knew this, as did some great men (and women) before and after him. That is the distinction.
A Reflection on MLK Day: How Racism is Fueled
By CarolAnn Bailey-Lloyd – Social Media Sorceress and More